The Bucs are far from being overconfident for their game against the winless Colts. In fact, the Colts' 0-8 record has Tampa Bay's players wary.
"Any time you face a team that's 0-8 you have to be extremely careful of any kind of letdown," safety John Lynch said. "When you look at it closely, they're a good football team. They're a football team that two years ago was one play away from going to the Super Bowl."
"Last season, when we were in the same situation, it really drew us together," guard Jorge Diaz said of the Bucs' 1-8 start. "They are in a tough position and they are probably feeling a sense of urgency."
If the Bucs needed any reminders about the dangers of a winless club, they got one Monday night when the 0-7 Bears upset the Dolphins.
"You look at Miami and Chicago and some of the games over the past couple of weeks. It doesn't take much to tell you that you have to be ready to go every time out," Bucs coach Tony Dungy said.
Couple that wariness with the Bucs' own apprehension about losing the last three games, and any thoughts of overconfidence should be completely wiped out.
"Right now, we're in a losing streak ourselves, so what we would like to do is wipe it all clean," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "They're probably doing the same thing. They want to see how many of the last eight games of the year they can win."
TOUGH SLATE: The Bucs have produced a 5-3 record against the second-most difficult schedule in the league. Bucs opponents have produced a record of 39-25 (.603) when you factor in the results of their games against Tampa Bay. That's second only to St. Louis, whose opponent record is 44-21 (.666).
JUSTIN TIME: QB Paul Justin gets his second start of the season with starter Jim Harbaugh out with a well-publicized hand injury he says occurred while punching NBC analyst and former Bills QB Jim Kelly.
Film study of Justin is not as easy as it would have been with Harbaugh because Justin's only start was in the Colts' 35-19 loss to San Diego last week.
"We've got a lot of film on Harbaugh but just a little bit of film on Justin," Lynch said. "So you're going to take an extra look at that and see what he's all about, and then look at the total and see what their offense is as a whole.
"You try to ascertain whether there will be any change with Justin in there."
For the season, Justin is 52-of-99 for 601 yards and three touchdowns. He has a rating of 60.2.
INJURIES: The playing status of TE Jackie Harris, who has a groin injury, will be determined on game day. He did not practice today but worked out with trainers. If Harris does not start, Dungy said backups Dave Moore, John Davis and Patrick Hape are expected to rotate at the position.
Harris is the only significant injury for the Bucs. WR Reidel Anthony (ankle), S Tony Bouie (hamstring) and G Frank Middleton (elbow) are listed as probable for Sunday's game.
WR Horace Copeland is not injured, but was excused from practice for what Dungy termed as personal reasons.
_ ERNEST HOOPER, JULIE K. TREMMEL